The ideal business opportunities combine financial reward with job satisfaction, which is why an ActionCOACH franchise is such an attractive prospect. We sat down with Billy Smith, senior partner Managing Director and Senior Coach at ActionCOACH Cheltenham to learn more about how the franchise’s unique business model manages to combine both.
Working across the Cheltenham and Cotswolds area, Billy Smith has supported businesses in acquiring the necessary skills needed to help them achieve their business goals. Having amassed many years’ worth of business experience, Billy recognised that ActionCOACH’s business proposition could be the one for him. It would not only help him develop his own business but also to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with encouraging and supporting businesses to stand on their own feet. Here’s what the franchisee had to say about his exciting journey so far…
From business development to business coaching
When it comes to small businesses failing, there are a common set of issues that tend to crop up again and again. Whether it’s inadequate processes, poor recruitment, or simply not managing finances correctly, the difference between success and failure can often be the result of lacking the right processes at the right time.
“I've worked in sales, marketing, and business development roles in the venture capital space for a while – and it’s not easy. You’re coming into businesses where there have been issues, such as poor financial management or inadequate recruitment, and having to turn things around. It can be challenging.”
Billy believes that ActionCOACH is an excellent way for small businesses to develop their skills and take steps towards achieving their future goals.
“The ActionCOACH proposition is about bringing the expertise of larger organisations to small businesses that don’t have that level of support and helping them to thrive,” he explained. “A huge number of businesses - eight in ten - go bust. It’s not because they aren’t good - it’s just that they haven’t planned out how to manage their finances, how to recruit and train, or how to plan.”
And it is this hands-on approach to supporting businesses that made the idea of an ActionCOACH franchise so attractive to Billy.
“I’d worked in consultancy before, but I missed the team aspect of it. ActionCOACH is appealing because you’re not just working with your clients –you’re actually part of a worldwide network. You have all the benefits of working with a big organisation while also being your own boss. That, for me, was win-win.”
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Building success through momentum
As with many businesses, success breeds success. But even with years of experience and skills at his disposal, becoming a franchisee - even with a supportive franchise such as ActionCOACH - came with its fair share of hurdles for Billy to overcome.
“In the beginning, it can be very challenging. You don’t have a bank of your own clients, nobody knows you yet, and you’ve got to find your own team. Even once you find your team and you’re working with 22 or so clients every week, you miss out on the time that you could spend on strategic planning.
Billy continued, “Then there’s the ongoing time management side of things, which is always a bit tricky. Of course, it’s often exacerbated when a new coach joins who needs to be trained to the right standards. We know we have lots of experience in the team, but making sure that we can balance that experience between training new coaches, working with clients, and co-ordinating on our future strategy is an ongoing challenge.”
But challenges are often the making of a franchisee – and this has proved to be the case with Billy. Now, having developed his own ActionCOACH business over 3 years, Billy has settled on a way of working that gets the best results out of himself and his team to provide their clients with the best advice possible.
“The best thing about what I do is seeing clients start to do really well. Watching them grow their business on the basis of the expertise and advice you’ve given them - it’s very satisfying. We had a smaller client who was looking to grow her business and invest in herself. She didn’t necessarily have ambitions to grow a team, but she has now tripled her team in 18 months. It’s amazing the to see clients using the skills you’ve taught them and thriving because of it”
While running your own successful franchise is inherently satisfying, Billy explained that ActionCOACH offers its own unique rewards, too.
“It’s a very reward-heavy business. When we take on a new client (business owner), we align their personal goals with their business goals over the coming five years. Helping clients achieve business success also means seeing them thrive on a personal level. I didn’t realise how rewarding it could be.”
“But there’s also so much support to help you. In the corporate world, there were always people hoping you’d fail so they could prosper. Everyone in franchising wants to support you and celebrate you, so you always feel supported and never feel like you’re on your own.”
Building the foundations of future success
Franchisee training isn’t just about helping new franchisees develop the necessary skills to achieve their business goals. The right package can help them lay the foundations for achieving independent success while still following the framework of a business. Coming to ActionCOACH with already 25 years of experience, Billy felt prepared for whatever the training would entail. Yet the learning curve was still surprisingly steep.
“The training takes you right back to the start and assumes you know nothing. It’s very intense. There’s 50-60 hours pre-training before you start the course – and the course itself is full-on. It’s eight till eight with homework on top. ActionCOACH showed me that the more you learn, the less you realise you know.”
Even now, Billy spends a significant amount of time honing his craft and making sure he’s always up to date on the latest ways to coach his clients.
“I still spend 4-5 hours on continual learning every week because it helps you keep on top of the ways in which business best practices are changing. It’s one thing to learn the fundamentals of doing business, it’s another to keep up-to-date with the ways these fundamentals are changing.”
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Adaptability as the key to success
This strong base of knowledge has been put to the test even more than ever in the last couple of years. When the pandemic first struck and restrictions on trading forced every business to quickly adapt, ActionCOACH had to quickly move their operations online.
“I remember a weekday right after the lockdown announcement. The phone started ringing at 9am with people wanting to know what was happening, people cancelling, and some clients pausing or stopping their coaching. There was an initial period of worry, but ActionCOACH supported us into moving online.”
Now, as life begins to feel a little more normal, Billy believes the move was actually very positive for the business.
“That transition has worked for us in many ways. Supporting clients virtually has helped us stay organised and partly because we ran so many free webinars and seminars, we actually enjoyed a sustained period of growth during the summer of 2020. After those worrying first few weeks, we really thrived and built a base for growth. It’s obviously a little strange to have only ever met clients online, but digital meetings are more efficient – and this has led to us being more organised as a business now.”
But even with these new digital ways of working, Billy and the team are still keen to connect in person from time to time.
“We did get people together in September 2021 for a lunch at a hotel to meet clients to interact in a different way. The networking opportunity was amazing and we couldn’t get people to go home afterwards! We’re now looking to schedule more of these events throughout the year to help our clients network– both to connect with us and each other.”
Leveraging your background
As with any business, bringing your own background and skills to a franchise will always be useful. For Billy, his decades of experience in sales and marketing has certainly been an asset for building and growing his ActionCOACH business.
“Sales and marketing is the bedrock of the business, and it’s important that you make sure your clients understand what you actually can do for them. People think coaching is about some bloke telling you what to do, but it’s actually about understanding what people’s ambitions are and how you can help them to take practical steps towards achieving them”.
For Billy, finding the right franchise was the most crucial part of the process.
“If you want to build a valuable business yourself –but still want to be a part of a network – a franchise gives you the wrap-around support of a tried-and-tested business model. All you have to do is follow the system. After all, there’s a reason why it’s there in the first place. It’s definitely not for mavericks who want to do their own thing.If you follow the system, you’ll get significant rewards, both financially and emotionally”.
Choosing the right franchise for you
If you’d like to find out more about becoming an ActionCOACH franchisee, check out ActionCOACH’s page on Point Franchise. Here, you can learn more about how to combine job satisfaction with an excellent business opportunity. For a minimum investment of around £69,000, you could start developing your own coaching business.
But if you’d rather explore other franchising opportunities, have a look at the UK franchise directory.
Elliott Fudge, Point Franchise ©